Art You Can't Miss at San Francisco International Airport
Did you know San Francisco International Airport is the country's only airport with a museum program accredited by the American Association of Museums?
Next time you’re at SFO, plan a little extra time to relax and enjoy the world class art exhibits; let your imagination take flight. You don’t have to be traveling to enjoy the art. There are plenty of exhibits pre-security to enjoy, making SFO a great rainy day outing. Although it’s fun to take the free AirTrain from terminal to terminal, you'll see the most if you just stroll.
SFO Artwork is Open to the Public and Free of Charge
Although not a museum in the traditional sense, SFO’s permanent Public Art Collection includes more than 100 paintings, sculptures, mosaics and site-specific works in a diversity of styles and media by artists of local, national and international acclaim. In addition to six light artworks featured in Illuminate SF by artists Ned Kahn, Eric Staller, Vito Acconci, James Carpenter, Keith Sonnier and Merge Conceptual Design, SFO exhibits works by top Bay Area artistic talents like Wayne Thiebaud, James Torlakson, Roy De Forest, Hassel Smith and Lee Mullican, all of whom can be found in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as works by international art stars like Arnaldo Pomodoro and Seiji Kunishima. All works in the Civic Art Collection sited at SFO are provided by the San Francisco Arts Commission, through the City’s percent-for-art program.
Six Must-See Light Art Works Featured in Illuminate SF
Hours and availability depend on airport and airline operations. Artwork located beyond security checkpoints can be seen by ticketed passengers in these boarding areas. View the SFO art collection online and download the multi-page PDF with art map to learn more about the artworks, and the artist who made them.
1. Wind Portal by Ned Kahn – 200,000 mirrored stainless steel disks responds to air currents, creating an ever-changing mosaic of light, sculpted by the wind. You’ll find it between the BART Station and AirTrain near the International Terminal escalator.
2. Four Sculptural Light Reflectors by James Carpenter – Inspired by the construction of the Wright brothers’ first airplane, the suspended sculpture's design diffuses direct sunlight from the skylights, which reflects light up onto the opaque surface of the roof. Pre-Security in the International Terminal, Main Hall, Level 3.
3. Light Beams for the Sky of a Transfer Corridor by Vito Acconci – Sculptural beams of light from recessed lighting in the ceiling above transverse the length of the corridor. Pre-Security in International Terminal, A-G, Level 2.
4. Sky by Merge Conceptual Design – Each mirrored sphere's exterior reflects and distorts its surroundings, as subtle shifts in light and color create an optical effect inside each sphere. Post-Security in Terminal 3, Boarding Area E, Level 2. (Restricted Access).
5. Spirogyrate by Eric Staller – An immersive, interactive installation composed of graphic spiral patterns and light respond to people’s movement through space. Post-Security in Terminal 3, Boarding Area E, Level 2. (Restricted Access).
6. Ceiling Flood by Keith Sonnier – Evenly spaced blue and red neon integrate with a line of neutral light, above which a strategically placed line of neon provides a subtle “yellow glow" down the length of the ceiling. Post-Security in International Terminal, Boarding Area G, Level 2. (Restricted Access).
Expanding the Definition of What a Museum Can Be
In addition to its public art collection, SFO hosts more than 20 galleries with art, science, historical and cultural themes, including a dedicated Aviation Museum and Library as well as rotating Exhibits, so you can come today and again in six months to see different works.
Artists are drawn to the vast, diverse audience that the airport attracts; 50 million passengers pass through SFO annually, while San Francisco Museum of Modern Art welcomes an average of about 700,000 visitors a year.
Don’t Miss SFO’s Stunning “Glass Waterfall”
Completed in May 2015, the new SFO Traffic Control Tower ascends 221 feet skyward in a graceful flare. The control tower's west face features an LED-backlit glass waterfall that stretches 147’ in the air – reflecting sunlight during the day and glowing with interior lighting at night, the colors of which can be changed to celebrate important events.
Located between Terminals 1 and 2, the tower can be seen from the freeway and upon driving into the airport. To see it close up, stand in the Pre-Security Public Corridor at the base of the tower. Look straight up through the skylight glass roof to enjoy the LED light waterfall. Designed to achieve LEED Gold status by airport master architecture firm HNTB, with design partner Fentress Architects, and Hensel Phelps on the design-build team.
Learn more at illuminatesf.com.